On Sunday afternoon, in front of 2,901 fans at Mercer County Waterfront Park in Trenton, NJ, the Reading Phillies' (1-3; 77-69) 46th season of affiliation with the Philadelphia Phillies came to a close, as the squad slipped to the Trenton Thunder (3-1; 82-64), 5-4, in the fourth game of the 2012 Eastern League Eastern Division Championship Series. The R-Phils, after prevailing in the first tilt of the best-of-five-game playoff set, went on to bow to Trenton in three consecutive contests. The R-Phils' 77 overall triumphs in 2012 marked the highest single-season win total for the team since 2001, when the it collected 80 victories.
For nearly a day and a half, due to persistent rains pushing the fourth game of the opening-round post-season series from Saturday to Sunday, the R-Phils sat idle, waiting patiently for their next opportunity to reverse the momentum of their pairing with Trenton. The R-Phils' execution in Sunday's first inning indicated that the club was conscious of the stakes it confronted, and the urgent task at hand.
Facing Thunder LHP Nik Turley (1-0 / 5.40 ERA), the 2012 Florida State League leader in earned run average, the R-Phils capitalized on an early scoring opportunity. Turley - logging just the second Double-A appearance of his five-year professional career - issued a one-out walk to R-Phils 3B Cody Asche (.429). Two batters later, 1B Tug Hulett (.231) drew a key two-out free pass, setting up RF Leandro Castro (.286) for a timely run-scoring single into left field, shooting the R-Phils out to a 1-0 advantage.
Accounting for the other part of an intriguing starting pitching match-up, R-Phils LHP Adam Morgan (0-1 / 7.50 ERA) assumed the mound under must-win circumstances for a second straight outing. Morgan, who finished three spots behind Turley on the Florida State League individual earned run average chart, helped steer the R-Phils to an Eastern Division Wild Card-berth clinching victory in his pervious showing, which took place in the R-Phils' regular season finale on Labor Day at Hadlock Field in Portland, ME.
Morgan carried the R-Phils' narrow 1-0 edge into the bottom of the second inning; however, as Turley did in the opening frame, Morgan ran into trouble that stemmed from a two-out free pass. A rare base-on-balls issued by Morgan put Trenton 1B Tyler Austin (.333) in position to bring across the equalizing score on a two-base hit rolled down the left field line. The Thunder again got to Morgan in the home half of the fourth inning, when 3B David Adams (.200) sparked a go-ahead surge by leading off with a double to the left field corner. With the R-Phils infield drawn in against the infield grass, the ensuing batter, Trenton SS Addison Maruszak (.357), looped a single into shallow right field that enabled Adams to scurry home. Thunder C J.R. Murphy (.250), on Adam Morgan's next pitch, then socked a two-run home run to left center field, lifting the hosts to a 4-1 lead.
The R-Phils mounted a home run-fueled offensive spurt of their own in the sixth inning. LF Darin Ruf (.214) began the frame by launching a towering solo home run past the left field foul pole, the blast trimming the R-Phils' deficit to 4-2. Ruf's home run represented his first of the post-season, and first since smashing his Reading Phillies single-season franchise record-setting 38th home run of the year back on August 30th.
Amidst a subsequent stretch of three singles that Tug Hulett, Leandro Castro, and 2B Miguel Abreu (.286) strung together, the R-Phils not only chased Nik Turley from the game, but loaded the bases. DH Jiwan James (.000) contributed to his group's run-manufacturing cause, soaring a sacrifice fly to left field that plated Hulett, and brought the R-Phils to within a score, 4-3.
Trenton, though, delivered a pivotal, decisive response in the last of the sixth inning. With two-out and the bases empty, Morgan surrendered a quick-exiting line drive home run to Addison Maruszak that provided the Thunder with vital insurance that proved the difference in the clash.
Despite managing to again slice their deficit to a run, 5-4, the R-Phils - in the end - were unable to overtake Trenton. In the seventh inning, following a Cody Asche base hit that sent across CF Tyson Gillies, who finished the afternoon with a game-high three hits, Darin Ruf bashed a deep drive to left center field. The fly ball, which possessed initial promise, eventually landed in the glove of Thunder CF Adonis Garcia. Later, in the top of the ninth inning, the R-Phils placed runners on first and second base, behind a pinch hit from OF D'Arby Myers (.400) and second knock from Asche. The team's last-chance rally was done-in by a game-ending double-play ground ball.
Ousted 5-4, the R-Phils, which out-hit Trenton, 13-5, found themselves eliminated from post-season contention in the Eastern League Eastern Division Championship Series for a second year in a row. The Thunder, meanwhile, advanced to the Eastern League Championship Series for the fourth time in the last six campaigns.
Over the course of 146 combined regular and post-season contests, the R-Phils showcased a roster that featured two players who re-wrote significant franchise single-season records, as well as several contributors that concluded the regular season ranked among minor league baseball's leaders in pertinent statistical categories. Additionally, three members of the Philadelphia Phillies organization that started the 2012 slate at the Double-A level ultimately earned assignments at the major league level. The 47th installment of the Reading Phillies will commence regular season action at FirstEnergy Stadium on Friday, April 13th, 2013 when the team initiates next year's home schedule.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.